Can We Talk? January 10, 2011

“We know that silence equals consent when atrocities are committed against innocent men, women and children. We know that indifference equals complicity when bigotry, hatred and intolerance are allowed to take root. And we know that education and hope are the most effective ways to combat ignorance and despair.” ~ Gabrielle Giffords, U.S. Representative (D-AZ)

 [From a post on Giffords’ official Facebook page, January 9, 2011.]

 Giffords is the politician seriously wounded in the shootings in Tucson, Arizona resulting in six deaths and fourteen injuries on January 8, 2011. She was meeting with constituents in a “Congress on your corner” event in a series she leads in her district. As I write this, Giffords remains alive but in critical condition.

Violence and death threats are as American as apple pie, Chevys, and leis.

This occurred to me quite a while ago, from my reading of American history and current events.

Giffords’ offices were vandalized in 2010. John Roll, the Federal judge murdered in the shooting, evidently had as many as two hundred death threats made against him and his family in 2009. [Source for latter information: azcentral.com]

Leis – necklaces of fragrant flowers or leaves – are famously Hawaiian. I would argue that leis are now American (and even belong to the world). The Hawaiian Islands have been part of the United States since 1898. Despite birthers’ claims to the contrary, Barack Obama was born in Hawaii to an American mother and is American as any American reading this. We must work on issues of substance. I’ll have more on this latter statement later in this post.

While I am an independent, I am progressive and tend to vote for Democratic Party candidates. I can’t easily listen to or read the rants of media types and personalities on the right. I find much of it to be vitriol, and hate- and fear-mongering – and unacceptable.

If we happen to disagree with the Republican Party, the Tea Party, or the Democratic Party, we are NOT traitors. Under the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment, we Americans have the right to free speech.

We don’t know what the motives of the shooter were. However, it is difficult to resist the notion that these shootings constitute political violence.

One prominent political figure is being criticized intensely for her PAC map of Congressional districts targeted with crosshairs of a gun and listing Giffords and 19 others she wanted removed from office. The map was posted in March 2010. 18 of 20 Congressmen and Congresswomen were voted from office later that year. Giffords won re-election in a very close race.

Giffords warned about the potential impact of the PAC map. “When people do that, they’ve got to realize there [are] consequences.” [Source: politico.com]

The PAC map of “targeted Congressional Districts” was removed after the shootings.

Somehow, lost in all of this is the fact that Giffords’ opponent in her 2010 reelection bid ran an ad on June 12, 2010 stating “Get on target for victory in November. Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office. Shoot a fully automatic M16 with Jesse Kelly.” [Source: Politico.com]

I deplore the use of language drawing on weapons or violent images in political campaigns. Unfortunately, people on the left (particularly, celebrities) have used this kind of language too. [Source: Michelle Malkin website. Painful for me to see examples of bashing of Republican politicians from the left.]

I am dismayed to learn that during the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama said “If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun.” I honestly don’t recall this. This statement has been repeated by defenders of Sarah Palin in response to intense criticism of her PAC map.

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) has defended Palin’s language. More specifically, he said recently that words such as “battleground” are part of the American political lexicon. As a follower of national political campaigns, I can’t dispute that the phrase “battleground states” is used extensively in coverage of presidential campaigns.

However, I believe that it is important to point out that Palin herself crossed the line in referring to crosshairs on her map as “bullseyes” in tweets. Additionally, Palin wrote “Don’t retreat, instead RELOAD” in other tweets. These are not acceptable communications.

The good old days of using sports metaphors and language – long a staple of American politics and media reporting – seem to be fading fast.

Gabrielle Giffords, John Roll (deceased), and Cristina Taylor Green (deceased) – three of the victims – exemplify what is best about our people and our country. Giffords was doing the essential work of proactively seeking out her constituents’ input in her District. Roll was a widely admired conservative federal judge, and deemed to be fair in his decisions.

Cristina Taylor Green was only nine years old when she was murdered in the shooting. She was born on September 11, 2001. She was featured in Faces of Hope, a book by Cristina Naman presenting photos of infants born in each state on 9/11. Cristina had just been elected to the student council of Mesa Verde Elementary School in Tucson. According to CBS News, she “already had told her parents she wanted to attend Penn State and have a career that involved helping those less fortunate than her.” [Source: CBS News.com]

We must return to civility in our political and public discourse. We must end the vitriol, hate- and fear-mongering from the right; additionally, we must end the bashing and hate-mongering from the left. We must end the personal attacks and “attack ads” in political campaigns. Media outlets must examine their complicity in ramping up and promoting vitriolic statements. It is far past time that we Americans all work together across all party lines on issues of national and international significance.

We must have national gun laws and these laws must be enforced. The shooter – a mentally unbalanced man – purchased a weapon in Arizona in 2010. How is that possible? Was he subject to a waiting period and a background check? Arizona is one of three states in the nation which allow carrying a weapon without a permit. Again, I ask: how is that possible? The shooter, tackled by two bystanders, was pulling out another clip when Patricia Maisch grabbed it from his hand.  Quick thinking by bystanders likely prevented the killing and injuring of even more innocent people.

We must end the violence. Violence is a result of the failure of imagination.

The issues facing us as a people – and as a species – are far too important. 

Now, can we talk?

I am Andrew Shattuck McBride, and I authorized myself to have this opinion.

About Andrew Shattuck McBride

I am a writer, editor, writing coach, and consultant. I work in a variety of genres, including poetry, short stories, and creative non-fiction. I also have a couple of novels simmering on back burners. THANK YOU to Nan Macy of Village Books for taking this photo (June 2011).
This entry was posted in Andrew Shattuck McBride Writer, Can We Talk?. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Can We Talk? January 10, 2011

  1. Pingback: The Quotidian, January 13, 2011 ~ Through the Eyes of a Child | Andrew Shattuck McBride, Writer's Blog

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